The Republicans have won a clear victory. They will take over the Senate, expand their control of the House, and deserve congratulations for their win.
Now, it is time to govern. The challenges that this country faces are long. And governing is different than campaigning. It means dealing with problems as they come – and not always in what fits best in a 30 second advertisement.
After this election, climate change is an issue that Republicans may think they are safe to ignore. The President has made a big push to regulate carbon emissions through the EPA over the last two years. Some outside groups sought to bring climate action into the campaign. Today, the electoral results could not be more clear: Obama’s policies were repudiated at the polls. Throughout the election, Democrats in swing districts went out of their way to avoid talking about climate change or the EPA.
Republicans could think that they are safe to continue saying “I’m not a scientist” when asked about climate change. They could think this means they don’t need a climate policy. That would be the wrong lesson to take from this.
President Obama’s policies on climate change are all wrong. His Department of Energy picks winners and losers among politically connected companies. His command-and-control policies at the EPA will ensure that “no lawyer is left behind” in a flurry of lawsuits over where to build power plants, and what kind of production is allowed.
However, that does not mean that not action is needed. The science has never been clearer. The threat has never been higher. On Sunday, the world’s climate scientists released their summary report, giving a dire warning of “severe, widespread and irreversible” effects from climate change. It had no effect on the election.
But that does not mean that it will forever have no effect on elections. While the voters may not prioritize climate change right now, they will one day. The American people vote based on their priorities at home – it is up to their elected representatives to both listen to the people and to use their judgment about how to protect them in the future.
Governing Means Preparing for Threats
In 1996, when terrorists bombed the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 American airmen, the public ignored it in that year’s Presidential election. In 1998, when President Clinton launched airstrikes against al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan, few voters cast their ballot in a referendum on how the government is preparing to face the terrorist threat – and many Republicans stated that Clinton was using military action to distract from his scandals at home. Even in the election of 2000, when we now know that Osama bin Laden was initiating his plot to attack the United States, the election focused almost entirely on purely domestic matters: how to give tax cuts and how to protect social security.
We know now that our government should have prepared for the terrorist threat better. When the new legislators take office in January, they will swear an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. In its preamble, the founders wrote that Constitution exists in order to “insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” As legislators, it will be their duty to not only listen to the will of the people, but also to use their knowledge to protect the people from the gathering threats over the horizon.
Today, climate change threatens domestic tranquility, threatens the common defense, will harm or general Welfare, and – if left unchecked – will eventually threaten our liberty. This is not an exaggeration. This is not a UN plot to establish “one world government,” it is not a left-wing scheme to bring socialism to United States, nor is it a scientific conspiracy to bring in new government grants. It is simply chemistry: more greenhouse gasses in the air acts like an additional blanket on the earth, trapping more heat, and bringing more dangerous extreme weather.
A Republican Plan for Climate Action
Fortunately, chemistry does not care about partisan politics. Republicans can actually be more effective in preparing for climate change by doing what we do best: embracing free markets, promoting breakthrough technologies, and devolving power to states and local governments. We don’t need Obama’s Cap and Trade plan. We don’t need to suddenly embrace the EPA or other big government solutions. We don’t need to give taxpayer dollars to politically connected industries.
Instead, Republicans should promote basic research and development into clean technology that will allow the private sector to effectively reduce emissions. They should devolve power to states and local governments to most effectively prepare for the effects of climate change, because the federal government shouldn’t give a one-sized fits all response. They should see that free markets have decided that solar and wind power is the cheapest new source of energy in some markets – but big monopoly utilities are blocking it. There are Republican solutions to climate change – and this year is our opportunity to force President Obama to take a new, conservative, and more effective track on addressing climate change.
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